Today is the first day of my trip to San Francisco. I was talking with a friend recently about this trip, and it turned out that he and I would both be flying on the same day. At this moment, he is flying to Brussels.
“Brussels?” I exclaimed. “From London? That hardly warrants space travel”.
It was a braino, caused by reading too much Sci-Fi. Space travel is nearly what we do though. Today, my friend and I strapped ourselves into hulking winged submarines and stayed in the air thanks to aerodynamics and bastard noisy engines.
There is nothing more boring than transatlantic flight. At least putting in that little extra effort to make it into space would bring the benefit of weightlessness. I believe the big airlines would find a way around it though. Too dangerous. Consider ducking your head to avoid lumpy clouds of vomit. Imagine spilled drinks floating around in fizzy multi-coloured bubbles.
I am flying from London Heathrow to San Francisco direct on Virgin Atlantic. This flight will last for just over 10 hours. As I type this, I’m nearly half way through it. I managed this feat by employing a variety of time-wasting techniques. I ate the cute little cooked chicken dinner. It doesn’t really matter what the meal was, it was the chicken dish. It seems to always be a choice between chicken and salmon. Vegetarian if you requested it in advance. I also drank an appalling gin and tonic (no lemon and no ice. Foul). I watched an in-flight movie. I put in my complementary Virgin earplugs before covering them with my noise cancelling headphones (purchased last trip. The best $100 I ever spent) and having a bit of a nap. I woke up over Greenland and took some digital snaps. I walked aimlessly up and down this aisle. For a change of scenery I tried walking the other aisle too. I visited the toilet more often than I strictly needed to. Now I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the rest of the flight. Perhaps another film. There’s enough time for two. I once read all of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance from cover to cover on a flight to Chicago. I once read Jurrasic Park in one sitting while waiting for a delayed flight in Greece. I think – when this turbulence calms down a bit – I might finish Iscaac Asimov’s Foundation.
This is my first flight on Virgin. Work usually makes me fly American Airlines, which nearly always hub in Chicago. Flying direct is much better. The only thing more boring than transatlantic flight is waiting for two hours in O’Hare. For such a busy airport it is grossly and unnecessarily dull.
At 6′ 4″, I am pretty tall. Whenever I arrive at a check-in desk I stand as tall as I can. It reminds me of buying booze at various pubs and off-licences aged 17. Then I always got away with it. These days the check-in staff usually take pity on me and put me in a bulkhead or emergency exit seat. The extra legroom is very much appreciated. As an added bonus I get to chat with one or two of the flight crew at takeoff and landing. They have these neat little fold-out seats which face the able-bodied passengers sitting next to the emergency exits. Today’s stewardess really obviously enjoys her job. Today she is working a 10 hour flight to San Francisco where she will make a two day stopover. She’s already planning to visit Macy’s. For the past six months the jet-lag has been getting to her. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t fly short distances. They go to various destinations in the US plus Hong Kong, Barbados… all places with 6 or 8 hour time differences. Two days is not long enough to acclimatize. She suffers two nights of insomnia in the US, the two in the UK. This pattern is really getting to her. She looks exhausted. I hope she gets the transfer to ground crew for which she’s applied.
My trip will last four nights. Almost enough time to get properly used to living on Pacific time before flying back on Thursday. I’ve heard that most people’s body clocks are capable of shifting one hour per day, but that travelling East is worst. I think I recover a little faster than that, but it’s an interesting rule of thumb.
I’m considering living on a much more Eastern timezone while I’m in California. If I go to sleep at 8 pm and wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning then I might return to normal twice as quickly. It’s a good plan and I’ve always talked about doing it. The other benefit, for the frequent business traveller, is that you are also able to work more closely with your colleagues in the UK. That doesn’t affect me this week though. My colleagues are well aware that I’ve abandoned them for a week.